November 13, 1862 (Thursday)
For weeks General Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Tennessee had been readying itself for a campaign towards Vicksburg. Standing in their way was the Confederate Army of the Mississippi commanded by John Pemberton. Since taking command of the Rebel army, Pemberton had held his troops at Holly Springs, Mississippi. This little railroad town was twenty-five miles southwest of Grand Junction, Tennessee, where Grant was compiling his forces.
Since Grant seemed to be massing, Pemberton decided that it would be wise to fall back, farther south to Abbeville, along the Tallahatchie River and waited to see what the Federals would do next.
As a rear guard, the Confederates left behind at Holly Springs a regiment or so of cavalry and a hospital full of wounded. Grant, as part of his vanguard, had sent cavalry towards Holly Springs.
At daylight, Col. Albert Lee of the 7th Kansas Cavalry approached Holly Springs and was greeted with a smattering of skirmish fire. Just north of town, his force charged the Rebel outposts, killing one and capturing four. They spotted a sizable force of enemy cavalry, but it fled through the streets rather than engaging.
Before long, Lee’s Kansans were “polluting the sacred soil” of Mississippi two miles south of town, skirmishing as they pushed on. As the Rebels retreated, their cavalry left behind about 100 troops convalescing in a hospital south of town. By 8am, Lee had around 100 prisoners (though the vast majority were sick in bed).
In mid-morning, the Rebels broke and fled towards Lumpkin’s Mill, a village seven miles south. Lee sent some of his forces in pursuit, but when they rode upon the town, they discovered quite a considerable number of Confederate cavaliers. By 3pm, Lee’s advance had returned, but the Rebels followed, bringing with them five regiments and three pieces of artillery.
The enemy showed themselves in force, but hesitated to attack with more than minor probes and skirmishes. By evening, the bulk of the Rebels had returned to their position at Lumpkin’s Mill, while Lee’s Federal cavalry held Holly Spring.
It was a minor affair, hardly anything to say about it. But it did give Grant some valuable information. Lee correctly reported that it was only Rebel cavalry in his front. The infantry – the entire Confederate army – was behind the Tallahatchie River. He also confirmed that the tracks from Grant Junction were in working order all the way south to Holly Springs.
The information was valuable, but Lee had stretched beyond what Grant had wanted, and he was ordered to return a bit closer to the main body. Holly Springs would indeed be occupied by Grant’s troops, but it would have to wait.1
- Sources: Vicksburg by Michael B. Ballard; Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 17, Part 1, p487-489. [↩]